Saturday, May 31, 2008

Paladins and Mana.

Josh over at Eye for an Eye and Klepsacovic at Troll Racials have both made posts in the last couple of weeks about Paladins and the limitations of mana as a combat 'power' mechanic for the class. They're both well worth reading, and with any luck will be a quality retrospective view of the 'bad old days of TBC' in a years time when we are all playing Wrath. I posted my response on E4aE, but here it is for my own blog:

This issue isn't unique to Ret Paladins, Holy Paladins also suffer from the exact same issue and is a reason why many stack Mp5 over Spell Crit (the other being that it is cheaper budget-wise). To a lesser extent so do so Hunters, and whilst I can't recall if AotV mana regen is hugely significant (i.e. beyond that of BoW), I do know that it is a great concern for them. On the flip-side, JoW roxors their soxors, but the comparisons for 10-man and 5-man encounters still hold.

This of course really comes out of Mana being a broken mechanic for Melee, in fact it's tacitly acknowledged by Blizzard in that DK's have a unique power mechanic and Prot Paladin's mana pool has been fudged into a pseudo-rage pool which can still be mana-burnt. Shaman were pretty much always casters, and Enhancement was thrown a huge amount of scaling mana-regen in the form of Shamanistic Rage to compensate. It's only now, with active damage abilities that we're all starting to clue up on how important mana is for a DPSing Paladin.

On a similar note, Mana Burn is an immense problem which needs addressing, and I feel that they need some form of protection from that mechanic, both for PvE and PvP. But... I don't think they are going to change it. In many ways they will probably utilise it to reinforce the concept of DK's being the premier anti-caster tank.

The problem is, I just don't know what Blizzard would be willing to do about this state of affairs. I have the feeling that they want Paladin mana starvation to be downside for the class as a whole (similar to lack of armour, waiting for energy or... erm... what's the downside to rage again?), meaning that we will continue to have to synergise well with other classes in order to fight for over 5 minutes. This is all very well and good in raids, but absolute balls for 10-mans where arguably a Ret Paladin is weakest. If they were to boost our personal mana regen it would probably be through a significant buff to SoW, to the extent that it procs on every hit and regens 5% of total mana per hit. There are many more interesting ways to boost Paladin Regen for both Holy and Ret, but Blizzard have painted themselves into a corner in limiting the mechanics available to Paladins to such an extent that I just don't see them doing it in a way which doesn't compromise their damage or healing to a non-negligible extent.

Just How Heroic is a Hero Class? Part 1: Unlocking.

A lot as been made of the Deathknight, Blizzard's first Hero Class; what are its core mechanics, what are its key strengths, what are its counters etc. Discussion remains somewhat limited whilst Wrath remains in F&F Alpha and only 6 of the 10 classes have new spells and talents, but what I'm going to attempt to extrapolate is what Blizzard considers 'Heroic' about this class.

Unlocking the Deathknight

At Blizzcon 2007 the designers threw out a few ideas on how they envisioned the unlocking mechanism of the Deathknight Class. Most of the speculation had been based around the principle of your character 'becoming' a Deathknight and then being redeemed, breaking him/her from the will of Arthas and regaining their identity (whilst continuing to have access to the abilities of a Deathknight). This promising (fan-envisioned) idea was watered down somewhat - the idea that the designers themselves floated was you performing a quest chain at a high level with one of your characters which unlocked DK creation. That's not necessarily as strong in Lore as the fan idea (but then, is it ever?) but it still had a lot of potential.

Fast forward around 10 months and Blizzards ideas have solidified into a working plan, and some are bound to be disappointed. Now all you need to do to unlock the Deathknight class is reach lvl55. Yep, that's all, reach lvl55. Frankly, I have to say that this sucks, and I can only think of two reasons for Blizzard to do it:

  • Their account management system prevented them from being able to do it, i.e. there was no way for quest completion status to feed back into the procedures used to manage characters, or
  • They want to make it as inclusive as possible, and a simple character level threshold accomplishes this.

  • Either way this waters down some of the uniqueness of the Deathknight class, and no matter if you are casual, hardcore or some combination thereof reaching lvl55 surely can't be considered 'Heroic'. That they are intending to have a Deathknight-specific area for starting in with a whole raft of class specific and quests and lore is great so long as they are sufficiently dense (3+ levels worth) and make it to release. Right now it looks suspiciously like you get dumped next to Fordring at lvl55 in full gear and go as normal from there... yippee. At this moment in time the only genuinely unique things about DK's character creation is that they start out at lvl55 and you can have only 1 per realm which is, needless to say, far from Heroic.

    So far, Blizzard isn't doing too well. Next... Part 2: Class Mechanics.

    Thursday, May 29, 2008

    Random Thursday Thoughts

    Some more Thursday Thoughts:

  • Reaper finishes next week, and I'm going to have to think of something else to watch on Wednesday evenings. I doubt that Ghost Whisperer is going to fill the void.

  • Also in Television, I've just heard about Joss Whedon and Eliza Dushku's new series 'Dollhouse'. Apparently a viral marketing campaign for the series started this week, but to be honest I respect Whedon enough to give whatever he pens a go. Of course, the major problem is whether it's going to reach these shores on a channel other than Sky 1, and even if we do get it how far behind will it be? According to the Wiki article it's due to start in the US sometime in January 2009 and run for a half-season (13 episodes).

  • There are yet more keyloggers kicking around this week, mainly due to a new Flash vulnerability being exploited by a bunch of Chinese hackers. Thank goodness for NoScript and other flash/ad blockers, but knowing that I'm relatively safe does not lessen my sympathy for those that do get hacked.

  • I'm resigned to not resubscribe to WoW until I have some idea of the release date of Wrath. It's a bit of a downer, but without more PvE content going back to my 70's on Steamwheedle Cartel EU will be a waste of money. It doesn't help that the Ruin Battlegroup is an utter farce for PvP and SWC-EU is pretty dead horde-side.

  • There is however a silver lining, my brother or friends will be able to take advantage of the Scroll of Resurrection offer and nab a free month.

  • I'm getting more used to HTML, and found this nifty little reference site. I've got a hell of a long way to go, but I don't now think that it's as impenetrable as I did.

  • Setting the background of this website to a series of black and white stripes is a really bad idea. Must Not Repeat!
  • Wednesday, May 28, 2008

    Paladins in Wrath: My Expectations.

    It seems to be all the rage to list out everything you could ever want or need for Wrath these days. As I've never seen a bandwagon I didn't like (OMG, Drumz!) it's time for me to jump on it, mainly so I can laugh at my own naiveté in 12 months time when we have the same problems at 80 as 70 ;). So, lets get this show on the road:

    The Top 5 things I want to see in Wrath of the Lich King

    *cue Whole Lotta Love*

  • At 5: On the wish list of every Holy Paladin... a Heal Over Time. But, I don't expect it to be a direct HoT similar to renew. A HoT component added to any (or all) of our direct heals via talents seems to be the most likely, probably as the 51pt Holy talent. My money would go on Holy Shock getting it, compensating not only for it heavy mana cost but also adding to it's viability. Knocking down its cooldown to 10secs would also be great addition, and for added kudos a DoT could be given to the damage portion of HS.

  • Coming in at 4: A new Weapon Damage Seal. It's my hope that Blizzards reticence in giving Alliance Paladins SoB, even though it scales significantly better than SoC as gear improves, is an indication of a new Melee Seal on the way. I don't expect this to be faction specific - Lore-wise all Paladins now draw power from the same source - but I do expect it to be better than SoB.

  • Number 3 can only be Plenty of Activated Abilities (or... please not another Crusader Aura). My intense dislike of the pre-1.9 Paladin was based upon how passive combat was for them (though spamming Cleanse in MC came a close second). 1.9 was somewhat of an improvement with a 10-second Direct Damage Judgement (though we all know just how much of a trade off 1.9 was), and 2.0 even better with Crusader Strike for Ret and Consecration becoming baseline. But still, I feel that simply more options for Paladins (and every class), have to be a good thing. The more that players have to decide 'do I use this ability now' or 'what do I have which synergies best with x' the more interactive their game experience is, and hence the more enjoyable it is. This is my only criticism of the Seal and Judgement system as it stands: because it encourages a rather passive experience. The same is somewhat true with Paladin Healing. In the same vein, long cooldown Paladin abilities such as Lay On Hands should be made available in the Arena to combat the powerful PvP skills of other classes on a moderate length cooldown (Mages, Rogues... that means you).

  • A new entry at number 2: Offensive Abilities for Prot Paladins. From the looks of the other tanking classes in the leaked talents and spells so far everyone is getting the ability to do damage in Tanking Spec. So far we've heard nothing for Paladins, but I'd like a Shield Slam-type ability generating Holy Damage and using Holy Shield charges as a 51pt talent. Also, not just for Prot Paladins but in fact all Paladins, I'd give all paladins as their lvl80 spell an intercept-type ability called 'Shield Charge', the only proviso being that it requires a shield to use. It should not have knockback!

  • And Top of the Charts for the 5th week of the row: An Uber-Cleanse. Choosing to cleanse debuffs in PvP, and to an extent in PvE, is becoming less of a valid cooldown tradeoff as the game has progressed. Many PvP Paladins now tend to use Divine Shield as super-self-cleanse because of the unreliability of Cleanse for clearing said debuff and DS for giving you extended invulnerability (for Healing etc). The best solution, returning Paladins back to the role of premier de-debuffer, is to allow Cleanse to remove 2 of each type of (non-curse) debuff. Alternatively Blizz could create a 'Cleanse-over-time' spell for Paladins similar to Abolish Disease, or if you wanted a seriously exotic suggestion a debuff resistance Aura (similar to our resistance Aura's, but keyed to debuffs rather than resistance schools). As Deathknights and their diseases become prevalent in Wrath I believe that this will become essential, aswell as set up Paladins as a strong Deathknight counter-class (just as they counter casters)

  • Hrm... I'm forgetting something, and if I don't put it in they'll revoke my Ret Paladin Union Membership. :(

    Better Scaling for All Abilities. It'll be of no surprise to anyone when I say that the requirements of all Paladin skills stat-wise is absurd, as much as any other class (at least on a Par with Shaman). However fixes aren't simple, and contrary to the belief of some Paladins it isn't a Ret-only issue.

  • Tanks suffer it wrt hit scaling (they need both Spell and Melee hit) which could be sorted by making +Hit a generic stat which applies to both spells and melee. They also have gear set requires dissimilar to Prot Warrior Plate, with threat scaling by Spell Damage rather than Strength. I'd expect this to be looked at closely in Wrath so that our threat and mitigation talents scale seamlessly with warrior gear and hence Paladin-only tanking gear can be phased out. It'd a shame to remove this variation, but it does solve the itemisation team a lot of head-aches.

  • Ret Paladins tend to suffer from it greatly. Even though a majority of our damage scales with Ap/Crit, the majority of our damage-dealing skills don't. Ret Paladin skills should all scale with Ret Paladin stats, either indirectly (as in a AP->SpellDam Talent) or directly (Judgement, HoJ and Consecrate all having an AP coeff). This especially goes for Melee Judgements, which should at the very least scale with Melee Hit (yes JoC, I'm looking at you). Similarly HoW should have a base miss rate of 5% against equal level mobs, and scale with both spell and melee hit.

  • In an attempt to solve scaling issues for both Prot and Ret, I'd dump the Redoubt or Imp. Devo Aura talents and stick an AP->SD talent right there as a 5/5. Perhaps up-to 35%... gosh, how different a complexion would that put on the Prot Tree?

    So, there are my hopes for Wrath of the Lich King. Nothing too outlandish IMO, and certainly not overpowered when taken in their entirety. Given how restrictive Blizzard have been with Paladin skills in the past with regards to the sorts of abilities they haven't been allowed to have (snares, interrupts, HoTs and group heals) I wouldn't expect anything terribly imaginative, but I do expect to see 3 or even 4 of the suggestions I've outlined above crop up, at least in Beta.

    Oh, and get rid of Forbearance. It's an archaic method of controlling Paladin cooldowns which have long since passed being necessary.

    Tuesday, May 27, 2008

    Ret Paladin in US 1st (World 4th) Kil'Jaeden Kill

    Over the long weekend the final boss of Sunwell and The Burning Crusade expansion, Kil'Jaeden the Deceiver, was defeated in both Europe and the US. The notable news for me - apart from that the expansion has now been 'beaten', probably fully 6 months before 3.0 drops - is that a Retribution Paladin was involved in Deus Vox's US-First kill. Slawnik is using a full-DPS variant build, the main purpose of which seems to be DPS longevity through foregoing Pursuit of Justice and instead maxing Benediction and investing the spare point in Divine Intellect. Given that the fight is supposedly 12+ minutes long, and he's Alliance and so doesn't benefit from SoB, that's not too much of a surprise. From a casual glance at the raid composition Deus Vox appears to be fans of the so-called off-builds for raiding; they were running a Feral Druid, couple of Shadowpriests, Arms and Fury warriors and most likely some Enhancement Shaman. Kudos!

    So, is this sort of raid composition something which we should expect in Wrath? Well it's a tough call and we have to take a long hard look the other three KJ-beating Guilds and their success with fewer Hybrids. The huge unknown right now is the raid-role of Deathknights. From the looks of things, and given that Deathknights seem to be bringing DPS+Main/Off Tanking tools to the raid (but significantly not debuffing/raid buff utility at this stage), it's probable that Paladins will no longer have a lock on 3 Spots. Three of the top 4 kills downed KJ with two or fewer Paladins, and none exhibit the raid stacking of Paladins we've seen in the past (though Shaman... *whistles*). Hence spots for BoSalv (Kings on tank) and BoW/BoM on DPS/Healers (presupposing that they don't exploit the 'cast blessings, stay out of raid instance' bug) is all we should expect in the Wrath endgame given how end-game raiders tend to follow the example of the elite in raid composition. Deathknights will probably take one of the formerly Paladin, Feral Druid and/or Fury Warrior (off-tank) slots, with the healers expected to take up some of the healing shortfall from losing a Holy Paladin. Indeed, 1 Paladin raids may become commonplace depending on each healers' relative viability, and if Blessing of Salvation is reworked all bets are off.

    What we can conclude is that the viability of Paladins (as well as other classes, mages being the most obvious) in end-game raids is looking more and more tenuous, but the catch-22 is that it means Prot and Ret Paladins become more attractive versus Holy whilst they can still buff BoSalv. To alleviate the worries of Paladins, and in fact all the classes faced with the chop, some more information from Blizzard needs to be 'released' and the raid exploit needs to be closed off. Otherwise the number of re-rolls in Wrath, or failures to re-sub between now and then, will only increase.

    On a lighter moment, the comedy moment of the week has to go to Nihilum, whose RL Kungen gave a caster dagger to one of their rogues (source), thus proving that after a week of wipes even the best can make stupid mistakes. Also it shows that a loot council (or is that dictator) isn't always the best of loot distribution techniques.

    Sunday, May 25, 2008

    Latvia Was Robbed.

    Which is kind of ironic when you think about it (see below). Yes, the nth annual political farce Eurovision Song Contest has ended with the Russians taking it from Ukraine, with the Greeks trailing in third. This... isn't really a surprise given the rampant politicking going on which of course we should all treat with good grace... heh. But in all fairness those three weren't too bad when you compare them to other entries (Spain, looking at you here).

    So, why was Latvia robbed? Well this should answer that question:

    For those interested the United Kingdom finished last out of 24, which was a shame as our entry wasn't that bad this time around. Oh well, better luck next year I suppose.

    Friday, May 23, 2008

    Turn Undead, Demon Form and Lichborne.

    Some other news from the Alpha notes: Paladins will apparently get the cooldown on Turn Undead/Evil removed entirely. Also, Warlocks in their new Demon Form will be classed as Demons, and Deathknights when they activate Lichborne will classed as Undead. We all should know what this means, divine retribution for Paladins against Warlocks. Fear-locking the form-changing git should be our first inclination, lets see how they like it.

    Not that I'm bitter or anything.


    A bit more on Lichborne: It makes you immune to all the things Undead are immune to, i.e. Fear, Sleep and Mind Control etc. It's a talent, not a baseline ability. Right now it has a loooong (and I do mean looong) cooldown of I believe around 15mins, and very limited duration. I doubt that it'll remain that long as Blizzard moves forward into Alpha but I suppose it depends on how they envision the ability to function. As things stand the skill seems to be a fancy bit of flavour rather than of genuine use in PvE (in a tanking role) or PvP (to mess up Priests and Warlocks).


    Lichborn now has a 5-minute category (shared) cooldown. I think it would be unsurprising to see that cooldown dropped another couple of minutes come live.

    Paladins and the Arena Tournament Realm - A Sense of Deja Vu

    The first qualification round of Blizzards Arena Tourney has ended, the results are in, and long-time Paladins should be forgiven for an eerie sense of deja vu. But I'll get to that in a minute, first the results of this round from Tourney Realms worldwide:

    35 Priests
    30 Druids
    28 Rogues
    22 Warriors
    19 Mages
    16 Locks
    7 Hunters
    7 Shamans
    1 pally

    Yep, 1 Paladin. Worldwide. Not even a holy paladin to boot, but rather a lone Ret Paladin in a Warrior/Paladin/Druid team in Europe. It should be stressed that this competition is 3v3 and not the more balanced 5v5 within which Paladins hold a premier position alongside Warriors and Priests, but the trend is interesting nonetheless. Also this statistic cannot be decoupled from class entry popularity, which would correlate strongly with perceived class viability, so we should be careful not to make any drastic pronouncements on Paladins based upon this statistic alone. (though it shouldn't stop 'us' from indicating it as evidence of the class flaws we do point out).

    And this is where the Deja vu comes in. Rewind almost exactly 3 years to this day and the Blizzard Test of Honour contest has just finished. This was a test based upon WoW's then fledgling PvP Honour system, when points were awarded for damage done upon killing a opposing player. This was a competitive system much like the Arena Rating System is now (rather than the accumulative reward system of the new Honour Points) where you had to actively be better than other players/classes to rank higher than others in your realm. One of the criticisms of this Test was that it was weighted towards those classes with highest offensive output (Hunters, Mages, Warriors) and against those who had difficulty racking up damage (Druids, Paladins, Holy Priests), and unlike the Arena it was definitely not group-friendly. The results were predictable: Paladins in the US had no representation, and only one Loke on Korgath-EU - an old-school Reck-bomber - was able to eek out a win against the odds. Thats not to say that every other class was well represented, I recall Druids and Warlocks being pretty low though with more overall. But for long-time Paladins, more than any class, it will sound a familiarly discordant note.

    I don't mean this to be a immense "QQ Blizzard Sucks" post, it will remain true that any class with the hallmarks of a 'Defensive Hybrid' will tend to under perform in competitive PvP. Utility, mobility and offensive arsenal are the most important features of an effective PvP class these days, and Paladins aren't up there in the era of resilience. But all is not lost, due to our poor performance in '05 Paladins received Hammer of Wrath. It was a great addition at the time of Spell Damage scaling, zero resilience and relatively low health levels and is a skill which can improve again if we see proper Paladin scaling in Wrath. Hence can be hoped that with this clear evidence we can put pressure on Blizzard to not forget about us in PvP, both offensively (more Offensive Utility if not damage) and defensively (more utility, a fix to Cleanse, a HoT, mana pool protection).

    I'll keep my fingers crossed and remain hopeful.

    Thursday, May 22, 2008

    Random Thursday Thoughts

    Some Thursday Thoughts:

  • I really could do with knowing more HTML. You'd think that with a CompSci degree I'd know a little more than the odd tag but I really don't. So, to anyone that reads this, a link to a HTML/CSS tutorial site would be really, really handy.

  • I'm starting to get an itch to play WoW again, so it's probably lucky that AoC will be out tomorrow. I'm really not sure why I'd both going back to WoW right now, I'd just end up grinding more dailies and honour without any real purpose and using it as an expensive chat client.

  • American political blogs are hilarious. Whether it be on the left or the right both sides are perfectly willing to throw their own leading lights under the when it is expedient to do so. I wonder if this is a quirk of the 2-party system they have or simply a expression of motivations which are universal.

  • Deal or No Deal is great wallpaper television, and Noel Edmonds is a legend.

  • John Terry is an unlucky bastard. That's not to say that Chelsea deserved to win, as a Spurs supporter I could never admit that, but to lose the game on penalties because of a slip is a heck of a way to go out.
  • Tuesday, May 20, 2008

    Age of Conan Released, Wrath Leaks

    Age of Conan has dropped in North America and is due to arrive in Europe on Friday. Early indications of the game are good, and the sales figures are look promising with 700,000 pre-orders and CE's sold out. Plus, they've layed on new servers for the NA launch, which is always a promising sign of high demand. Will AoC be able to maintain this momentum?... only time will tell, though it has to help that WoW has no new major content patches due between now and the launch of Wrath. With any luck I'll be able to snaffle a copy/trial for the EU release this weekend.

    For More AoC news and updates, check out, part of the IncGamers network.

    On the subject of Wrath of the Lich King, more leaks are coming out from those datamining the F&F Alpha (initially posted on MMO-champion, but no doubt they'll be taken down so I won't bother linking). It cannot be assumed that any talents or spells mined now will be in the final release version as is (indeed some of them sound enormously powerful, too much perhaps), but they do indicate possible changes in class design philosophy. Nothing new for Paladins as yet (lol, surprise!), Hunters and Rogues but here are some thoughts on the other classes.

    Warriors: They are now entitled to have viable AoE, though of course it is Point Blank in nature and will probably have an associated downside.
    Shaman: Snares and CC, and possibly a new Shock mechanic. A lack of CC (stun, polymorph etc.) has always been the Shaman's most significant inherent weakness.
    Mages: On demand Stuns for Frost and more AoE, but no clues yet on anything truly innovative.
    Druids: AoE HoT's and more multi-form talents for Feral. Expect to see abilities stolen from Hunter's, Rogues and Warrior's here, but I guess that's to be expected in a tanking hybrid.
    Warlocks: AoE DoT's, advanced Forms (e.g. Shadowform) and non-negateable (Chaos?) - not even by immunity - Damage. All bar the last are natural extensions of abilities we've seen in the game so far, from both NPC class surrogates and similar PC classes, and so shouldn't be too shocking. The last is always going to be questionable, but with Immunity now always being prefaced by 'not quite' and the Deathknight's anti-magic abilities perhaps this is inevitable. If AoE DoT's are released, expect more magic/disease dispel/immunity abilities for Druids, Priests and Paladins.
    Priests: PvP and Pets, in one form or another. Of course this means damage reduction, instant direct heals and unique pet mechanics, but there's nothing revolutionary here. Expect raucous laughter from Paladins if the rumoured 51pt Holy talent goes through.
    Deathknights: No ability except direct healing appears to be verboten. Powerful pets, AoE snares and self-rez are the order of the day as the most powerful talents, aswell as some undead-flavour abilities appearing throughout the talent tree (*cough* Will of the Forsaken). Right now, Blizzard seem to be throwing everything at the DK and seeing what sticks, pretty much what you'd expect from a character in Alpha. But by extension it implies that the vision for what a Deathknight should be is weak, much like the vision for Paladins in late Beta and release was weak. Hopefully this is sorted long before the Wrath Beta.

    Hopefully I'll find out something fun about Paladins over the coming months. Hunters and Rogues... I'm less concerned about ;).

    Sunday, May 18, 2008

    Real First Post: Wrath Friends and Family Started.

    Well, 20 months since I registered the Blog and I've decided to start blogging for real. Of course, this isn't going to be a serious exercise, just an infrequent diary of what I find interesting around the net, in World of Warcraft (or some other game), and chronicling my seemingly endless search for work.

    Anyway, for those still playing WoW the most interesting news this week has to be the start of the Wrath of the Lich King Friends and Family Alpha. Though rumours have been abound for some time, the major WoW-News sites including MMO-champion and World Of Raids leaked the F&F Alpha patch notes on Saturday.

    I'll not bother posting them here, there's nothing particularly new contained in them, but we should expect to hear more about what's on offer in Wrath over the coming weeks as the inevitable leaks are released. Be careful though, many will be fake.

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